Devonport Dockyard Asbestos Storeman Peter Jeffery of Saltash Blamed by the MOD for his Exposure to Asbestos.
Former Devonport storeman Peter Jeffery of Saltash was diagnosed with asbestosis at the end of 2019. He worked at the yard from 1960 to 1975 but, unlike many with asbestos disease, he was not generally on board the ships being refitted. Instead, he worked in the Asbestos Stores for a period of three years or so at the end of the 1960s, where he was exposed to significant levels of asbestos dust.
Peter instructed Liz Makin, senior solicitor in the Wolferstans Solicitors specialist asbestos team, to bring a claim. He explained how, day to day and throughout his whole shift, he would be exposed to asbestos dust. Cardboard boxes containing asbestos products such as pre-formed insulation were often broken when delivered to the stores. He recalled the bed of the delivery lorry being thick with asbestos dust. He handled sacks of asbestos powder and swept asbestos dust from the floor.
His main job was to serve members of the lagging team with asbestos products when they came into the stores. Of all Devonport workers, the laggers were usually those exposed to the highest levels of dangerous asbestos dust.
The laggers would strip off old, crumbly insulation from pipes, machinery and other fittings all around the ships and submarines. They would come to Peter’s store covered in white dust and he served them with asbestos products or powder, which they would then use to reinsulate pipes on board.
The MOD knew of the dangers of breathing in even small quantities of dust, but did nothing to warn him; or provide him with a mask; or other protective equipment; or safe working practices. Peter is very angry that he was never warned of the dangers of asbestos. He would never have chosen to work there if he had known.
A new, much safer store was built in the 1970s after input from the trade unions, but this was after Peter had left the Asbestos Store.
Incredibly, the MOD have blamed Peter for his own misfortune; saying that he caused or contributed to the disease by:
• Failing to report that he was working with asbestos (despite the fact the MOD placed him there and named the store the “Asbestos Store”!)
• Failing to use protection provided (Peter says he was never given a mask or other PPE)
• Failing to tell the MOD that protection was required and continuing to work there, so endangering his own safety.
Peter’s solicitor Liz Makin says “These allegations that Peter was in any way to blame for his own misfortune are, frankly, preposterous. It was the MOD’s job as the employer to protect him and they knew of the dangers only too well in the 1960s and did nothing to protect him and many other dockyard workers. I would love to hear from any of the laggers who went to the Asbestos Store, as they are likely to have information that can help Peter and support his recollection”
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